October 30, lead article in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald: “More than 470,000 homes and businesses have lost power in Maine.” A freak storm had savagely attacked the Pine Tree state, along with many other areas in New England.
Stoplights didn’t function. Schools closed. Streets were flooded. Even the Amtrak Downeaster cancelled runs. Everyone in my village and its environs had a story to share.
Preserving her supply of lobster, crabmeat, filet mignon and racks of lamb was top priority for Luanne MacDonald, owner of Hurricane, a popular Dock Square restaurant in Kennebunkport. “We had two generators, but actually needed seven to handle all our frozen and fresh food supplies,” she said. “So we let the desserts, salad dressings, dairy products and other perishables go.” Her total loss for one day approached $10,000.
The Monday night after the storm, with power still out throughout town, Luanne, her staff and helpful friends sat in the candle-lit restaurant, sipping wine and eating “stuff we could salvage” — lobster chowder, Caesar salads and creme brûlée. (The condemned man ate a hearty meal?)
They also strategized as to how they could “re-prep food we had lost and get ready for the Tuesday night Public Supper at Hurricane for which there were 200 reservations. We did it! We pulled it off, and power came back on, but it was a stressful couple of days.”
World Series fans woke up Tuesday, October 31, in Kennebunk, realizing they probably couldn't watch the final game between the Astros and Dodgers. Die-hard baseball fan Betty Smith wasn’t worried. She owned a generator. That evening, Betty poured some Famous Grouse into an ice-filled glass, settled into her recliner and turned on the television. Nothing!
“We tried everything — calling Spectrum, checking with neighbors,” Betty said. “Finally, my husband Ron went to the basement to check the cable line coming into the house. It was plugged into an outlet that our generator didn’t feed power to. So we replugged it and ran a 50’ extension cord up the basement stairs and into the family room. I was able to watch the last game. And my team won!”
By midweek, Susan and John Smart became concerned about the supply of propane that fueled their generator. They had played countless games of Scrabble by candlelight, used their grill to cook burgers, but walking their dog Annie late at night in complete darkness was “a little eerie.”
By Thursday morning, they were down to only eight gallons of propane. When they called their regular supplier, they learned his usual price had skyrocketed. Yup. So they called another supplier, Branch Brook Fuel, who was "so much cheaper" and who, Susan said, “delivered new tanks to the house, did a safety inspection (and found a leak outside), and had us up and running within four hours of our walking into their office.” Some people price-gouge; other people perform.
For most residents the inconveniences multiplied as the week progressed. Residents spotted flotillas of utility trucks speeding north on the Maine Turnpike, skipping the Kennebunk exit for more populated cities up north.
“I missed a hot shower,” Sandy Janes said. Along with ice cubes, the internet and garage doors that opened automatically. Elliott Speers agreed they were “very long days, and I had to train myself to stop trying to turn light switches on.”
His wife Anne said, “I was due to have an operation on my hand on that Wednesday, so I heated water that we’d bought on our gas range and gave myself a sponge bath — twice. And then washed my hand three times with that special surgical soap. One night I slept in a chair near the gas fireplace, while Elliott slept in a sleeping bag on the floor next to the fireplace. Toilets were another issue.”
Some folk savored the unusual quiet in their homes. Ken Janes said, “Not watching the evening news was almost a relief!” His wife Sandy added, “We never stopped thinking about people in Puerto Rico — we identified with what they are going through. It was a very long week, but honestly, we did enjoy our fireside dinners.”